“We want a grand jury,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, who was killed by a police officer last year. “We are not going to take this lying down.”
Malcolm’s outrage stems from a decision by Judge Steven Barrett of the state Supreme Court to dismiss manslaughter charges against Officer Richard Haste on a technicality. He ruled last Wednesday that the prosecution had not given proper instructions to the grand jury.
“I will not give up this fight,” said Graham’s father, Franclot Graham, who appeared with his wife last Saturday at a rally at the National Action Network. “This is a fight for justice.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton was equally outspoken about the tragedy in which an unarmed Graham, 18, was shot and killed in the bathroom of his own home after being pursued by the police.
“Even if he was running, the police are not supposed to shoot at someone who is running away,” Sharpton charged. “And clearly, he was not running in his bathroom. The officer must pay in the courtroom for what he did to Ramarley Graham.”
Rather than waiting for an appeal, the family and their lawyers are pushing for another grand jury.
“This case is not dismissed,” said attorney Jeffrey Emdin, who, along with attorney Royce Russell, is representing the family. “But the people will decide this case.”
The case, Russell said, “will give the community an opportunity to re-engage with the criminal justice system.”
At first, Sharpton said the judge’s dismissal of the case was a miscarriage of justice but then revised his statement. “No, it’s not a miscarriage; a miscarriage is natural–this was an abortion,” he asserted.
Several of the elected officials at the rally were also angered by the ruling. “The judge threw the case out on a technicality,” said City Comptroller John Liu, a candidate for mayor, “but we, the people, get convicted everyday on a technicality.”
Liu also voiced his displeasure with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his policy on housing, particularly the uproar surrounding the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which was the other issue on NAN’s agenda. “For more than 11 years, Mayor Bloomberg has ignored the conditions facing more than 600,000 occupants of public housing units. And more alarming–he is selling off property for housing units to his cronies.”
Fellow mayoral candidates Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and William Thompson also expressed their disappointment with the NYCHA situation and promised to join Sharpton in his protest by spending one night in a public housing project.
“I will get my pajamas ready whenever you decide to spend a night,” said Thompson.
Sharpton has challenged all the mayoral candidates to spend a night with him in the units as he did when he ran for Senate in 1992. “Bill Thompson was with me then, and this will certainly bring out the media. The world will get a chance to see the other side of New York City.”